January 5 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Kara Fox, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021
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4:22 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Singapore police can obtain Covid-19 contact tracing data for criminal investigations

From CNN's Eric Cheung and Sophie Jeong

Government Technology Agency staff demonstrate Singapore's new contact-tracing smartphone app called TraceTogether, which was launched as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus on March 20, 2020.
Government Technology Agency staff demonstrate Singapore's new contact-tracing smartphone app called TraceTogether, which was launched as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus on March 20, 2020. Catherine Lai/AFP/Getty Images

Singapore police can obtain data from the country's Covid-19 contact-tracing technology for criminal investigations, a government minister said in parliament.

“The Singapore Police Force is empowered under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations,” said Desmond Tan, the country's Minister of State for Home Affairs.

TraceTogether is a digital system developed by the Singaporean government that notifies people who might have been exposed to Covid-19 through close contact with confirmed cases. It comes in the form of either a smartphone app or a Bluetooth token.

Tan added that the government is the "custodian" of data collected through the system, and that "stringent measures" are in place to ensure that it can only be used for "authorized purposes."

As of Monday, more than 4.2 million people, or 78% of Singapore's population, have enrolled in the TraceTogether program, said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to information posted on TraceTogether's website, the system only records users who have come into close contact with one another by exchanging Bluetooth signals on their tokens, but does not record their geolocation data.

4:03 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Hospitals are already overwhelmed. Now some US states are beginning to feel the impact of holiday gatherings

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Medical Director of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center's intensive care unit, Dr. Thomas Yadegar, walks inside a temporary emergency room built into a parking garage in Tarzana, California on January 3.
Medical Director of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center's intensive care unit, Dr. Thomas Yadegar, walks inside a temporary emergency room built into a parking garage in Tarzana, California on January 3. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

Parts of the US are beginning to feel the brunt of last month's holiday celebrations -- at a time when hospital systems are already at their breaking point.

Experts warned holiday travels and gatherings could help fuel another surge of Covid-19 infections. Yet millions of Americans traveled anyway -- with more than 1.3 million people -- a pandemic record -- screened by the TSA on Sunday alone.

That's as hospitalizations hit another grim record Monday, with more than 128,200 Covid-19 patients, according to the COVID Tracking Project. But some states are warning worse may be yet ahead.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said the state had "more patients with Covid in ICU beds at the end of last week than we have had at any other period throughout this pandemic."
And he expects "some very large numbers with the spread from the holiday gatherings combined with the backlog and testing and reporting that may have occurred during the last 10 days."

After marking a particularly deadly day in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday there has been a spike following the recent social gatherings that took place.

"It is clear that the increase through the holidays, increased the infection rate and increased the number of people who are now walking into hospitals," the governor said.

In California -- where at least two regions have zero ICU beds left -- infections are continuing to soar.

"We are heading into what we anticipate as a surge on top of a surge," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Monday news conference. "It's going to put a lot of pressure on hospitals and I see it coming out of the holidays."

Read the full story:

3:48 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Indonesia will give first Covid-19 vaccination to President Joko Widodo on Jan. 13

From CNN's Eric Cheung

A health officer unloads boxes of Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine in Palembang, Indonesia on January 4.
A health officer unloads boxes of Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine in Palembang, Indonesia on January 4. Muhammad A.F/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Indonesia will give the first Covid-19 shot to President Joko Widodo to mark the beginning of its vaccination program on January 13, the country's state-run Antara News Agency reported on Tuesday. 

Vaccinations will continue across the country on January 14 and 15, Antara reported, citing Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian.

Doni Monardo, chairperson of the task force for Covid-19 handling, said the public should continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing even after vaccinations begin to minimize the risk of infections. 
"The narrative about this vaccine should not make people think that after the vaccine is available, everything will be over. No, the vaccine will not immediately stop Covid-19. The vaccine will not help unvaccinated people to escape Covid-19," he said, according to Antara.

Indonesia has already received 3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. It has also signed deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax to secure another 100 million doses of vaccines, according to Antara, but no details were given on when those shipments will arrive.

In December, Widodo said the country will provide free Covid-19 vaccines for the public amid the worsening outbreak.

"There is no reason for the public to not get vaccinated," Widodo said.

As of Tuesday, Indonesia has reported 772,103 Covid-19 cases and 22,911 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.

3:46 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Germany's Merkel to discuss lockdown extension with regional leaders

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz, Claudia Otto and Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in the Bundestag in Berlin on December 16, 2020.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in the Bundestag in Berlin on December 16, 2020. Rolf Schulten/Bloomberg/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss extending a nationwide lockdown with the leaders of her country's 16 states on Tuesday, as the number of Covid-19 infections continue to rise.

The current lockdown, which went into effect in mid-December, is set to expire this Sunday. But the situation in Germany remains “extremely difficult” due to new coronavirus infections, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Seibert said it is also hard to obtain an accurate picture of the pandemic at this point in time because it is unknown how potential holiday travel and gatherings may have affected the situation.

The core of Merkel's discussion with regional leaders will center on the speed of the vaccination process and whether to reopen schools.

The German government has come under pressure from both politicians and scientific experts for not securing enough doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to roll out its vaccination program.

Merkel is set to meet the premiers virtually at 1 p.m. (7 a.m. ET). She will hold a news conference to announce the outcome in the afternoon.

Caseload and vaccinations: Germany has reported at least 1,787,410 Covid-19 cases, killing at least 35,518 people.

At least 11,897 cases and 944 deaths were identified since Monday by the Robert Koch Institute, the German disease control agency

By Monday, 264,952 people -- or about 0.3% of the population -- had been immunized, according to the institute.

This post has been updated with the rescheduled virtual meeting time.

3:12 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

France to "amplify, accelerate and simplify" its vaccine distribution strategy

From CNN's Pierre Bairin in Paris

A nurse administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to an elderly person in the Bellevue gerontology center in Montpellier, France on January 4
A nurse administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to an elderly person in the Bellevue gerontology center in Montpellier, France on January 4 Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

French Health Minister Olivier Veran announced on Monday a plan to "amplify, accelerate and simplify" the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines throughout the country,

Veran's announcement came after the government was criticized for the slow rollout of its program. Speaking to RTL radio, Veran said the following people will be part of the new vaccination program:

  • Nursing-home patients and staff
  • Health workers older than 50
  • Firefighters
  • Homecare workers older than 50

By the end of January, people older than 75 and who are not in nursing homes will also be able to get vaccinated, Veran said.

New centers opening: Veran also announced France will open new vaccination centers more quickly.

"Twenty-seven hospitals currently have vaccines; we will have 100 tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon in order to cover the entire territory," he said. "Next week, we will have 300 vaccination centers. And 500 to 600 vaccination centers will be accessible at the end of January." 
2:45 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Already free of coronavirus, this country could become the first in the world to be vaccinated

From CNN's Rhea Mogul

Health workers give Palau citizens their first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination.
Health workers give Palau citizens their first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination. Palau Ministry of Health

A cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean that's one of the few places on Earth entirely free from Covid-19 could become one of the first countries vaccinated against the disease.

The Republic of Palau, an archipelago home to about 18,000 people, received its first shipment of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna on Saturday. Vaccinations started the next day, Palau's Ministry of Health announced on Twitter.

The first shipment included 2,800 doses of the vaccine, which will be administered in two shots, 28 days apart. Health care workers, key officials and vulnerable groups will be among the first to receive the vaccine, according to the ministry's statement.

To date, Palau has not recorded a single coronavirus case or virus-related death, according to the World Health Organization.

In January, as the virus began to spread across Asia and the Pacific, Palau was among the first to implement stricter border controls. Its borders were entirely locked by March, and it began testing citizens for the virus by April. These measures were key to keeping Covid-19 out, Palau's ambassador to the UN said in May.

An independent nation in free association with Washington, Palau has access to the United States' mass Covid-19 vaccination program, known as Operation Warp Speed (OWS).

The archipelago covers an area of just 177 square miles (459 square kilometers) -- about a sixth of the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state. That small size puts Palau in prime position to be among the first nations to be inoculated against Covid-19, according to the country's Incident Commander of the Ministry of Health, Ritter Udui.

"We are lucky to be in a position where we have access to vaccines through OWS, and our small size makes it easier for us to roll out the program," Udui said. "It's not compulsory to receive the vaccine, so our goal is to vaccinate about 80% of the population. We hope to achieve herd immunity (through the vaccination program)."

Read the full story:

2:20 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Analysis: China's latest potential culprit in its search for foreign coronavirus sources? Auto parts packaging

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

More than a year since the coronavirus pandemic began, while a surprising -- and frustrating -- number of points remain unclear, one thing is certain: the first major outbreak was in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

While scientists are still examining the exact origins of the virus, that Wuhan was the initial epicenter is undeniable.

As China has moved past its initial mishandling of the virus, Beijing has reveled in contrasting its own successes with the situation in other countries, particularly the United States.

But the stain of being the place where the pandemic emerged remains. In recent months, Chinese state media and officials have begun hyping up reports of potential other sources, pointing to research that may suggest -- or can be manipulated to suggest -- that the virus was circulating earlier than first thought and, most importantly, was circulating outside of China.

"More and more research suggests that the pandemic was likely to have been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed this month. "(China took) immediate actions to carry out epidemiological investigation, identify the pathogen and publicize key information including the genome sequencing of the virus. All this sounded alarm bells across the world."

Auto parts theory: On Monday, reports circulated on Chinese social media that the virus had been detected on auto part packaging in multiple cities, including from foreign brands. By the afternoon, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, had stepped in to tell state media the auto parts in question were not imported, and whatever traces of the virus were detected were unlikely to be infectious.

While Wu effectively dismissed the potential car parts origin theory, it has echoes of far more widely reported claims that the virus could have entered China via frozen foods.

For months, China has been testing and disinfecting frozen products coming from overseas, over fears the virus could reenter the country that way, even as experts remain skeptical about this as a potential source of infection.

Read the full analysis:

1:43 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Top sumo wrestler tests positive for Covid-19 in Japan

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Mongolian-born grand sumo champion Sho Hakuho performs a kata during a ring-entering ceremony at the Meiji Jingu Shrine on January 7, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
Mongolian-born grand sumo champion Sho Hakuho performs a kata during a ring-entering ceremony at the Meiji Jingu Shrine on January 7, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Top sumo wrestler Sho Hakuho has tested positive for coronavirus, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) announced on Tuesday.

Mongolian-born Hakuho , who has won a record 44 top-division titles, has been preparing for the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, which is due to start on Sunday in Tokyo.

Hakuho experienced changes to his sense of smell on Monday and was tested at a nearby clinic. His results came back Tuesday morning. Wrestlers who are believed to have had close contact with him will be tested Tuesday.

Surging cases: Covid-19 infections have been soaring in Japan in recent weeks, and authorities are poised to declare a state of emergency in some areas, including Tokyo.

Japan’s Ministry of Health said 3,320 new coronavirus cases were identified Monday, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 248,672.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga dismissed calls to declare a state of emergency in November, citing advice from an advisory panel that hospitals were still relatively empty. However, Japan's total case count has more than doubled since then. Suga's approval rating has plummeted in recent weeks, in part due to his handling of the pandemic.

1:18 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

US reports more than 180,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton

At least 180,477 new Covid-19 patients were identified across the United States on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

Another 1,903 people were killed by the virus.

To date, there have been at least 20,817,140 coronavirus cases in the US. A total of at least 353,483 people have died in the pandemic.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.    

Vaccination status: At least 15,418,500 vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide, and at least 4,563,260 shots have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Track US cases here: